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There goes the sun

18 Dec 2019 | Science Notes

According to Perspecta, Inc. meteorologist Paul Dorian on Watt’s Up With That?, the sun is going veeery quiet indeed. In “the midst of a deep solar minimum” it is about to reach “an historic milestone”, namely the longest stretch with no sunspots at all since 1913. Which, pace Sam Diamond from Murder by Death, can only mean one thing. And we have no idea what it is. Climate, you see, is very complicated and important as the sun is, it’s just one factor.

Many alarmists say sun schmun, insisting that CO2 is “The Thermostat that Controls Earth’s Temperature”. Others of more balanced temperament concede not only that energy from the sun reaches the Earth in significant amounts, but that the indirect effect of the sun’s magnetic field on cloud formation via its tendency to screen out or allow in cosmic rays plays a major role in how much of the incoming energy gets reflected right back out again. On this theory, an inactive sun with a weaker magnetic field is associated with cooler temperatures. And as people like Fritz Vahrenholt have argued, there’s a lot of evidence from things like “ice cores, dripstones, tree rings and ocean or lake sediment cores” that temperature fluctuations going back centuries correlate startlingly well with fluctuations in solar activity. Much better than with CO2, in fact.

Now if we were having an adult conversation about climate, it would be important to stress that these solar fluctuations might simply be superimposed on other trends including CO2. If so, a drop in solar activity in the early 21st century might counteract, and thus mask, a long-term tendency toward GHG-driven warming. It is possible.

On the other hand, to take the sun seriously even in the short run requires one to confront the awkward reality that the whole Little Ice Age/subsequent warming thing seems to have been solar rather than carbonic. A quiet sun from 1600 through 1700 including the “Maunder Minimum” then revived, slumbered again in the early 19th-century “Dalton Minimum” then got lively especially around 1950. And guess when the alarmists find a warming trend emerging from what Gavin Schmidt has dismissed as early 20th century “noise”, aka temperature and CO2 not moving together as they were told to?

Dorian says with considerable understatement that “One challenge for researchers working to predict the Sun’s activities is that scientists do not yet completely understand the inner workings of our star.” No. Not completely. Nor do they “completely understand” how the outer workings of our star impact climate, or how CO2 does, or what other factors might be crucial including Milankovitch cycles that are independent of both and are held somehow to have caused a series of glaciations on a 41,000-year cycle that abruptly switched to 100,000 years.

That aside, we understand climate perfectly. As Greta Thunberg explained in a TED talk in March 2019, “Some people say that I should study to become a climate scientist so that I can ‘solve the climate crisis.’ But the climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions.”

So Mr. Sun should just be quiet. No, wait…

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